One Big Change Change The Little Mermaid Director Is Making For Halle Bailey’s Live-Action Film

Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid
(Image credit: Disney)

Over the last few years, Disney has been regularly producing live-action remakes of their beloved animated blockbusters. This trend is continuing with the new Little Mermaid movie, which is directed by the great Rob Marshall (Chicago, Mary Poppins Returns). And he recently revealed a big change The Little Mermaid is making for Halle Bailey’s live-action film.

The new Little Mermaid movie has a killer cast, lead by pop star/actress Halle Bailey. The movie will also feature Jonah Hauer-King (A Dog’s Way Home) as leading man Prince Eric. He’s got some big shoes to fill in this role, and Rob Marshall recently spoke to EW about the new layers that’ll be coming to Eric in the upcoming movie musical. As he put it,

The role of Eric in the animated film — I'm sure the original creators would agree with this — it's a wooden, classic prince character with not a lot going on. There's a whole story that's developed in our film. He has a mother, a queen, that's new to the film. He has a very similar trajectory in a way to Ariel. He doesn't feel like it's where he fits in, his world.

Well, that’s certainly intriguing. Rather than just a classic handsome Prince, it looks like Eric will be getting a bit more depth and backstory in the live-action Little Mermaid. This should not only create a more interesting character, but will presumably strengthen his romantic connection with Ariel in the process. Is it May 2023 yet?

Rob Marshall’s comments to EW help to peel back the curtain on what’s going to be new for his take on The Little Mermaid. While it certainly looks like we’re going to get plenty of homages to the animated movie and the same beloved songs, Marshall and his cast/crew are also going to put their own spin on the classic Disney story. And that includes some intriguing adjustments to the character of Prince Eric.

Later in that same conversation, Rob Marshall further explained how giving Eric a more dynamic personality will help to sell his romantic connection with Halle Bailey’s Ariel. This love story has given some reason to pause in the original movie, mostly because the Disney Princess isn’t able to speak for most of the movie. But their shared backstory will bond them in Marshall’s Little Mermaid, as she shared:

These two kindred spirits find each other and really teach the world about prejudice and about breaking down barriers and walls between these two worlds.

Sign me up. The idea of fighting prejudice is already one that’s been associated with the new Little Mermaid, related to Halle Bailey’s role as Ariel. There was some racist online backlash over a Black actress playing a role. But more powerful than that were the videos of young Black girls watching the movie’s trailer for the first time, and being overjoyed in seeing themselves represented in such a way. As a reminder, you can check out the first footage below, including Bailey’s outstanding vocal talents.

Along with Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King, Rob Marshall assembled a killer cast to bring The Little Mermaid to life. That includes Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, and Awkwafina as Flounder. Anticipation for the project has been steadily rising, and it should reach a fever pitch once a full trailer is finally released to the public.

The Little Mermaid is currently expected to arrive in theaters on May 26th. In the meantime, check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your trips to the theater in the New Year. There are a few other movie musicals coming our way including The Color Purple (which will also feature the talents of Halle Bailey). 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.